By the time you read this, Cole Hamels will have taken the mound against the Atlanta Braves, a soulless, bland team that plays in a soulless, bland stadium filled with soulless, bland people. Perhaps in an effort to fit in, Hamels has relieved himself of something that, for a weekend, captured the imagination of a city and brought laughter and mirth to a nation of fans filled with self-doubt.
Because when MLB Network, carrying the Philadelphia broadcast of Friday night’s game, showed Hamels in the dugout, his upper lip blooming like the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C., it set off a ripple of ecstatic hysteria that reached across national borders.
The mustache, like most facial hair, doesn’t always look good. If it’s vestigial, or fussy, a little too far off the beaten path, perhaps the mustache will turn an otherwise respectable individual into an object of mockery. Or even turn Joba Chamberlain into even more of an object of mockery than he might have otherwise been.
But while the mustache is often playful, it need not always be undertaken in jest. We’ve reached a point as a society where the mustache is cool again.
Yes, it’s true. The best part about the growing social acceptability of the mustache is that it sorts out people I don’t want to hang out with. Because whenever someone says mustaches are for child molesters and porn stars, it saves me the trouble of asking if that person is a snotty, unimaginative bore with a troubling fixation on nonstandard sexual proclivities. If that’s the best thing you can come up with about mustaches, that tired, silly, frankly inaccurate stereotype of mustache-wearers, then in such great letters as they write “Here is good horse to hire,” let them signify under your sign: “Here you may find someone who’s not worth listening to.”
But I digress. The goatee has taken the mustache’s place as the painfully-out-of-date facial hair du jour, which frees up courageous and stylish individuals to adorn their faces with such decoration as would warm the hearts of nations. And little did we know that our longtime friend, Cole Hamels, of the cherubic disposition and Truman Capote tenor, could grow such wonders.
Look at it–the length of Hamels’ upper lip, allowing a gentle, majestic bushy contour, exquisitely clipped at the edges. This was not the mustache of a fatuous hipster. This was a mustache of a serious man, a man who smokes outrageous cigars and drinks top-shelf bourbon, neat. The mustache of a captain of industry, of a tenured professor of philosophy, of a colonel in the Royal Air Force. In short, a not-fucking-around mustache.
And when Hamels climbed that golf cart with Cliff Lee and the Apostate Red Phanatic, driving around, launching hot dogs into the crowd like the world’s three silliest mujaheddin on the world’s silliest machine gun-carrying Toyota pickup truck, well…some things you just have to see for yourself.
And we could have had a season’s worth of that. A season’s worth of equal measures “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” and “footloose and fancy-free.” Like a Star Destroyer mixed with the pinwheel-waving, “Lady of Spain”-playing rain barrel from The Muppet Movie. We could have been greeted with a more glorious, more imposing, dare I say more adult version of Cole Hamels, his upper lip kept toasty warm by a mustache that makes Teddy Roosevelt look like Sidney Crosby.
But he shaved it.
I get it. Maybe you want to go conservative, go with what works. Maybe you grow the beard in spring training, when you’re just screwing around, and you think it’ll be a riot to go with the mustache for a couple days. And it was.
Never has something looked so good on someone who esteemed it so little. And as I watch Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla demonstrate the meaning of the word “ballistic” in Hamels’ first Opening Day start, I can’t help but imagine if things would have been different if Hamels had done the right thing, the moral thing even, and kept the mustache.
You deprive us, Cole Hamels. And I shed a tear for what might have been.